National cabinet assigns COVID hospital system review to working group

By Melissa Coade

Monday August 30, 2021

A piece of legislation sitting in the parliament right now surely takes the cake for arrogance and it is dragging the Australian public with it all the way.
A piece of legislation sitting in the parliament right now surely takes the cake for arrogance and it is dragging the Australian public with it all the way.  (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The commonwealth secretary of health, Brendan Murphy, will report back to the National Cabinet on the work of a new cross jurisdictional working group to examine the needs of Australia’s hospital system capacity and workforce under the demands of the COVID-19 national plan. 

Prime minister Scott Morrison announced the new working group on Friday, and said their review would take into account the Doherty Institute modelling for the COVID Delta variant. 

The working group will comprise the heads of all state and territory health departments and be led by the commonwealth secretary of health. They will report back to the National Cabinet on their findings by the end of this week on 3 September. 

The pm’s announcement followed the 53rd meeting of the National Cabinet to discuss Australia’s response to the pandemic.

“All leaders reiterated the importance of Australians, especially those in vulnerable groups, to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are registered for use in Australia and are proven to be effective in preventing serious illness and death, as well as limiting transmission,” Morrison said. 

“More than 33% of Australians aged 16 years and over are now fully vaccinated including more than 48.7% of over 50 year olds and more than 60.8% of Australians over 70 years of age.”

Children aged 12-15 will begin to be vaccinated from 13 September, 2021, the pm added. 

The Doherty Institute’s Professor Jodie McVernon also addressed Friday’s National Cabinet meeting on draft modelling scenarios and sensitivity analysis. According to the pm, this work confirmed the Doherty Institute’s earlier recommendation of the 70% and 80% vaccine thresholds which informed the national plan for COVID-19.

Morrison said additional Doherty Institute modelling would be presented to the National Cabinet at future meetings. 

“Further work is underway on the scenarios as well as modelling of optimisation of the public health measures and managing outbreak responses and scenarios to support vulnerable cohorts and areas with low vaccination uptake,” the pm said.

In NSW, case numbers for the latest Delta variant outbreak continue to climb. The state logged 1,218 new cases over the weekend and now has 813 COVID patients in hospital. NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has gone to pains to shift public focus away from the rising daily rate and to the current vaccination rates in the state, which has now surpassed 6 million doses

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